Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Mikel Arteta revealed that Emile Smith Rowe – who has not featured in a competitive fixture since September 2022 – could make his long-awaited return from a groin injury at Oxford tonight, with the Spaniard suggesting that, should the attacking midfielder train well over the weekend, the England international is set to feature.
When asked when the 22-year-old will likely be back in action, Arteta said: “[On Monday] if he trains well, he will hopefully be available to give us something in the game.
“We need him fit and at his best, and when we have that, we have an incredible player that we have missed a lot in the last few months. He can play as an attacking midfielder, as a winger and even as a nine; I think he’s played there before.”
Considering how important a part of Arsenal’s first-team squad Smith Rowe very much proved himself to be last season, coupled with Arteta having recently lost both Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson to long-term injuries, the news that the versatile forward is now set to make a return to first-team football will undoubtedly come as a huge boost to the 40-year-old manager.
Indeed, over his 33 Premier League appearances last time out, the £35m-rated attacker was in sensational form going forwards, scoring ten goals, registering two assists and creating three big chances for his teammates, in addition to taking an average of 1.2 shots – 0.7 of which hit the target – making 0.9 key passes and completing one dribble per game.
These returns saw the £40k-per-week talent average an extremely impressive Sofascore match rating of 6.92, ranking him as Arteta’s joint 11th-best performer in the top flight of English football in 2021/22.
Furthermore, as previously mentioned, with both Jesus and Nelson looking set to spend a considerable amount of time on the treatment table – a duo that had scored seven goals and provided nine assists over their combined 27 outings in all competitions this season – the return of Smith Rowe could not have come at a much better time for the Gunners.
Indeed, while the Premier League leaders should have enough to get past their League One opposition this evening even without Smith Rowe, the availability of the 22-year-old is nevertheless fantastic news for Arteta – who will undoubtedly be looking to keep the Gunners’ hopes of a famous treble alive at the Kassam Stadium tonight.